Lecumberri prison in Mexico City housed inmates from 1900 until 1976. Among the incarcerated were over 460 political prisoners held after the 1968 massacre of student protesters and bystanders by government officials, transforming the site into a potent symbol of the repressions of the era. In 1982, Lecumberri reopened as the Archivo General de la Nación (National Archive), the most important repository in Mexico. I argue that the preservation and renovation of the structure provided an opportunity for the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) to reclaim the narrative of Lecumberri from the activists who used it as a symbol of state excesses and a node of resistance during and after the 1968 student movement. Through the preservation of Lecumberri as a cultural institution, the Mexican government claimed progress by rhetorically "opening" and "inverting" the site, yet the fundamental power structures of the institution, and their related architectures, remained unchanged. I then show how interventions by artists Gina Arizpe and Ángela Bonadies escaped, exceeded, or confounded these official narratives, staging what Cristina Moreiras-Menor calls "alternative notions of temporality." Their artworks underscore the fact that the repressive, carceral functions of Lecumberri also serve the Archive, questioning the moral narratives implicit in historical preservation.


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